Tag Archives: mystery

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (2015)

naturebeastAlthough Louise Penny again returns to Three Pines, Quebec, for her latest mystery, she introduces new characters to interact with Inspector Gamache (now retired), his son-in-law Guy, the poet Ruth, and other regulars. This story gives insight into how Ruth becomes the unusual character and poet she is. To start the story, a nine-year-old boy tells such outlandish tales that no one believes anything he says, but then he actually finds something extraordinary in the woods, and then goes missing to the great distress of his parents. Some of the residents plan to perform a play but most of the actors back out when they learn of the terrible nature of the writer.

Could there be some connection among the missing boy, the rejected play, and the extraordinary evil in the forest? In the author’s note, we learn The Nature of the Beast is based on an actual occurrence at the Canadian-U.S. border and thus fits nicely with the location of Three Pines and its fictional characters.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)

13thtaleDiane Setterfield masterfully weaves together a gothic tale of suspense, mystery, and loss. The novel follows the story of two women, one a reclusive author, Vida Winter, who has weaved together so many stories about her life no one knows the truth and the other a young biographer, Margaret Lea, who has been chosen by Winter to take down her true story before Winter succumbs to old age and various ailments plaguing her.

Winter’s tale unfolds mainly in flashback, recounting her eccentric upbringing and the tragedy that tore her family apart. The reader is left to figure out which character Winter is in her tale. Meanwhile, Lea is forced to look to her own past, the loss of her twin and the resulting withdrawal from day-to-day life of her mother. She tries to examine how it has shaped who she is and how she can move forward with her own life. Themes explored include identity, loss, reconciliation, death, and twins.

The Thirteenth Tale was originally released in Australia as an adult novel, but subsequently was released in the United States as a novel targeted to young adults. In 2007, it won an Alex Award, which is annually given to ten books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults.

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (2015)

longfarawayIn 1986 in Oklahoma City, the employees of a movie theater are murdered during a robbery. Wyatt, now a private investigator in Las Vegas, was the only survivor. When asked by a friend to travel to Oklahoma City and find out who’s been harassing the new owner of a local rock club, he finds himself revisiting the scene of the massacre, as well as unearthing long dormant memories.

Another crime in 1986, although not connected, was the disappearance of Julianna’s older sister, Genevieve, at the Oklahoma State Fair. Julianna has been in an emotional fog since, desperate to know what happened to her sister. Both Wyatt and Julianna explore their pasts, finding new clues that will hopefully bring them both some closure. The Long and Faraway Gone is a character-centered novel reminiscent of Dennis Lehane. Lou Berney’s mystery won an Edgar award for Best Paperback Original, deservedly so.

Blood on the Water (2014) and Corridors of the Night (2015) by Anne Perry

These two Anne Perry novels feature the Monk family – William, his wife Hester, adopted son Scuff, and street urchin Worm – all working together to solve the current crime.

Ibloodwatern Blood on the Water, Commander William Monk of the River Police is on patrol when the Princess Mary explodes, sending nearly 200 passengers to their death. Soon after Monk begins his investigation, the case is transferred to the Metropolitan Police due to its “international implications.” But Monk and his family cannot leave the case alone: Hester attends the trial of the captured suspect, son Scuff (who spent his young years on the waterfront as an orphan) questions waterfront denizens like Worm to get first-hand information, and Monk continues to follow the case. After a rapid trial and conviction, Monk raises questions of guilt and the river corridorspolice is reassigned the case. Motive, access, and high level involvement are unclear as the Monk family pursues the truth.

In Corridors of the Night, Nurse Hester Monk becomes the protector of two small children who are being used to supply blood to a very ill man undergoing an experimental treatment. The scientist conducting the treatment has little regard for the children or Hester such that Monk and Scuff need to rescue her from what is a near kidnapping.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (2013)

husbandssecretThe title intrigued me and I was not disappointed. Although Liane Moriarty cleverly interweaves the stories of three women, the husband’s secret is the thread that ties them all together. Cecilia accidentally found the letter her husband wrote to be read after his death. John-Paul didn’t die, but Cecilia’s decision to open it anyway set into motion a series of events that profoundly affect the lives of three families in the St. Angela’s School community in Sydney.

In The Husband’s Secret, twists and turns in the plot and characters’ reactions leave the reader questioning the outcome until the very end.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman (2016)

wildelakeWhen Lu Brant is elected the first female state’s attorney of a county outside Baltimore, it should be the pinnacle of her career, but when she decides to try a murder case against homeless Rudy Drysdale, she’s forced to confront buried memories of her own childhood. Lu’s brother A.J. was involved at 18 in an incident where he broke his arm and another man died. Lu was ten at the time, enamored of popular A.J. and his group of friends. No charges were ever brought against anyone, but as Lu proceeds in her case, she finds that Drysdale was two years behind A.J. in school and that they might have known each other. Lu also reflects on being raised by her father, also a state’s attorney, after her mother died while Lu was very young.

Wilde Lake is a novel that transports you to 1970s and 1980s suburban Baltimore and fully immerses the reader in a world of childhood and family secrets. Like Laura Lippman‘s best novels, Wilde Lake is a book that stay with you even after the last page is turned.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur by Rita Mae Brown (2014 and 2002)

sleepingdogsSister Jane Arnold, Master of Foxhounds with the Jefferson Hunt, would never return with a fox tail flying from her horse’s mane, but rather puts out treats (some with embedded worm medicine) to keep her clever red-furred friends in fine form for the next chase. These two novels give an engaging overview of the Virginia foxhunting scene as well as good murder mysteries, literally dug up after decades under the earth.hotspur

On occasion, author Rita Mae Brown allows the foxes, horses, and foxhounds to tell parts of the story from their own viewpoints to better help the reader understand the finer points of the hunt. Thus the reader can gently learn of foxhunting traditions while following the unfolding mysteries of both Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur.

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay (2015)

brokenpromiseDavid Harwood is the main character in Linwood Barclay’s latest novel. He is a down-on-your-luck guy, a widower and father of a young boy. The newspaper he worked for has gone out of business, and he and his son live with his parents in Promise Falls, New York. A cousin he is close to has recently been accused of kidnapping a baby and killing his mother.

Since David has a lot of time on his hands, he sets out to prove his cousin’s innocence. In the meantime, there are several strange occurrences happening in Promise Falls, and the police are scrambling to find answers. Broken Promise is a good novel filled with suspense. The author left the ending open with several unanswered questions. Maybe there will be a Promise Falls sequel?

Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance (2015)

hellorhighballThis book hits all the right notes of humor, setting, and character. In 1923, Lola Woodby, a New York society matron in her early 30s, is now a penniless widow with a dog, a Swedish cook, and a serious addiction to cinnamon buns and highballs. Talking like George Raft, if George Raft were actually talking in 1923, Lola and cook Berta go about wheedling their way into high society weekends, speakeasies, and shady businesses in order to retrieve a missing reel of film, and make the dough to pay the rent on their seedy apartment. I look forward to Lola’s next adventure.

Check out Maia Chance’s Come Hell or Highball today.